An era is ending in South Africa

I am in Cape Town on behalf of a client, and had the good fortune to worship yesterday morning at St. George's Cathedral where I came across this paragraph in Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's column in the diocesan newsletter:

Your prayers are also asked for Nelson Mandela and all who love him. He is an old man of 92, and we cannot hope for him to stay with us forever! We thank God for all he has done for South Africa, and the inspiration he has been to so many beyond our borders. But we must also commit him into God’s hands, asking, as the ancient prayer says, that when his time comes, he may have a “good end” and not be afraid to make that final journey to his eternal home, trusting in the one who gave his life so that we might know the life of heaven with him. But until that time, we ask God to strengthen and uphold Madiba, and surround him with love and care.

There is a feeling here, hard to miss even for a visitor, that an era is ending in South Africa, that the immediate post-apartheid period is drawing to a close, that the great leaders of that time are nearing the ends of their lives, and that the nation is looking with hope and trepidation into the great what's next. One senses this especially in the emphasis on recapturing a sense of purpose and reclaiming a sense of responsibility for the future that is theme or subtext through numerous public campaigns and events.

Among those who will be leading the church into this future is the Rev. Michael Weeder, who will become dean of St. George's on May 22. He is a child of District Six, the culturally rich, but impoverished inner city neighborhood in Cape Town that was bulldozed by the white government in 1966, when Weeder was nine years old. He has lived in devastating poverty, studied in war zones, and led congregations in rural areas and inner cities. Those who know him say he projects a calm enthusiasm.

He told Jeremy Michaels of Gateway, the Cathedral's magazine, that while he was coming to his new job with opinions and ideas, "these must be weighed and measured within the faith community of the Cathedral...it will be tested against what they need, the Kairos as in what God wants for all of us. That is how vision emerges and I will aspire to work with that which is treasured in the hearts of the faithful here as we walk along the path of the Gospel."

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